Craniology

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Craniology was another ‘science’ that dealt with the human skull, in this case an attempt to characterise different ethnic groups—human races—by measurements of their skulls, having previously defined fixed anatomical landmarks on its surface. While the American Civil War raged on the issue of slavery in the 1860s, some supporters of slavery in Britain—initially concentrated in the membership of the Anthropological Society of London—attempted to demonstrate that the alleged inferiority of native Black Africans or Australians had a biological foundation, with a reduced cranial capacity, a more acute facial angle, etc. While today we regard this as abhorrent and false, we have come to consider the origin of ethnic groups and of the genetic structure of human populations a legitimate object of scientific study.

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